The importance of seeking stakeholders’ views in the European policy making process: the case of the review of the ePrivacy Directive

The European Union (EU) offers the opportunity for stakeholders to contribute their views to the policy-making process through a very elaborated system of public consultations. The European Commission already consults citizens and other stakeholders on all major policy initiatives, but it intends to consult the ‘interested parties’ even more. The Commission’s new Better Regulation Guidelines strengthen the EU’s commitment to carry out consultations that are of a high quality, transparent, and reach all stakeholders.

The importance of lobbying in the stakeholder consultation process

Opening up European policy-making can indeed help the EU to become more transparent, accountable and effective. However, policy makers are often requested to discuss and vote laws that they might not know in depth. Those affected by such laws are therefore in a better position than anyone in understanding the impact they may have. That is why many different sectors, from the civil society to the industries, are organized in associative forms.

For instance, national federations from all over the EU can gather under a bigger European-wide umbrella association which will be the direct link to EU legislators. Such EU associations are normally based in Brussels which is the center of the EU decision-making. Thanks to the contributions coming from the different Member States’ level, EU associations can therefore develop a common reply to all the relevant consultations launched by the Commission. The more representative the association is, the more relevant and reliable the contribution will be.

Dr2 Consultants’ support in developing EU-wide contributions for Ecommerce Europe: the ePrivacy Directive case

Dr2 Consultants provides support in advancing the interests of the e-commerce sector towards the European policy makers by developing and implementing Ecommerce Europe’s public affairs strategy. This also includes developing replies to public consultations coming from the European Commission. In this sense, the last contribution of Ecommerce Europe was its reply to the consultation on the evaluation and review of the ePrivacy Directive.

The ePrivacy Directive has been in place since 2002 and it concerns the protection of privacy and personal data in the electronic communication sector. In such an evolving environment, especially in relation to e-commerce, the time has come to evaluate the effectiveness of this directive and ensure that it will be reviewed in a proper way. The Commission’s objective is to ensure a high level of protection for internet users and a level playing field for all market players.

It is clear that privacy and data protection are essential elements of e-commerce not only for online shoppers but also for merchants. By replying to the public consultation, Ecommerce Europe provided the European Commission with a contribution which is the result of many other aggregated contributions coming from various e-commerce associations all over Europe. During the process of revision of this directive, EU legislators must recognize the important role that electronic communications and data-driven marketing play in the business model of online merchants.

That is, in brief, the call of the European e-commerce sector emerging from the public consultation. Such consultations are just one step in the policy-making process, but they give stakeholders the opportunity to have their voice heard amongst the EU institutions. Many more lobbying actions will follow after the consultation, as the law-making process is far from being over.